Fasting & Regeneration
Evidence surfaces indicating that fasting may prove beneficial for people with SCI.
Over the years, I’ve been exposed to many radical healing modalities I’ve been reluctant to write about even for this inherently open-minded Healing Options column. In spite of my reservations, supporting evidence often then turns up, opening the door for discussing them. This article focuses on two related nutritional approaches of this ilk that may enhance nervous-system regeneration after spinal-cord injury (SCI).
My interest in them was piqued several years ago when I heard two closely spaced lectures. In the first, a well-known health and nutritional guru indicated he had sustained an SCI as a young man. Due to ensuing depression, he attempted to starve himself to death. However, after losing much weight, he started to regain sensation and eventually fully recovered. Today, in his mid-fifties, he is a weightlifter, an equestrian, and for fun, jousts like the knights in days of yore.
A few days later, I heard another talk indicating how fasting stimulates growth-hormone production, and people in cultures that incorporated periodic fasting into their lifestyle lived longer.
Indeed, much evidence suggests that restricting overall food intake enhances health, including less aging, increased life span, a reduction in cancer and disease, and improved neuronal health. Intriguingly, benefits may accrue even if overall caloric consumption is not curtailed but food is provided only every other day (EOD). For example, National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists found that EOD-fasting in mice “has beneficial effects on…neuronal resistance to injury…that are independent of caloric intake.” (Anson et al. PNAS 2003; 100(2))
Fasting & SCI
Recent studies suggest such fasting may also promote recovery after acute SCI. Specifically, Drs. Ward Plunet and Wolfram Tetzlaff, University of British Columbia, randomized rats with experimental cervical injuries into control animals with free access to food, and those with access only every other day starting immediately after injury. Compared to controls, fasted rats had improved functional recovery, smaller injury-site lesions, and increased neuronal regeneration.
The investigators concluded that EOD-fasting “can have benefits when initiated after the insult”…. “Most importantly, intermittent fasting is a safe and simple multifaceted treatment that could be clinically implemented to improve functional recovery in patients.”
Tetzlaff noted, “We believe that a rigorous re-evaluation of nutritional guidelines for acutely injured patients is in order and are planning more basic-science experiments (toward a mechanistic understanding as well as a further corroboration of the principle in different SCI-lesion models). Hopefully this will provide the basis for clinical trials.”
Mechanistically, the investigators believe fasting affects the body’s immune response, resulting in fewer regeneration-blocking immune cells reaching the injury site.
Consistent with this mechanism, some researchers suggest an easier means of achieving the benefits of fasting is by eliminating cooked foods. They claim that consuming a diet consisting predominately of cooked foods—as most of us do—provokes an increase of lymphocytes (an immune-system, white-blood cell), which on an ongoing basis stresses the body. Fasting provides a break from such dietary stress.
Although the physiological stress of cooked foods seems odd given that we have eaten them over the millennia, their consumption represents a small sliver in mankind’s evolutionary past and is unique among the animal kingdom. Most likely, our physiology has not sufficiently evolved from the eons of time our hominid ancestry ate raw foods to the comparatively brief epoch of mankind’s ascent into the modern age and transition to cooked foods.
Throughout history, many cultures have appreciated the health benefits provided by uncooked, unprocessed foods, including their nutrients and inherent life-force energy. For example, the Essenes, an ancient, ascetic Judaic sect whose eschatological wisdom generated the Dead Sea Scrolls and may have influenced Jesus’s teachings, eschewed cooked foods unless heated by the sun. Given that they possessed esoteric knowledge that has transcended the ages, perhaps they also had valid dietary insights that go beyond contemporary nutritional paradigms.
In another example, calling it “medicine that walks,” Native Americans have historically incorporated raw meat into their diet.
Given this theory, it has been suggested that in lieu of fasting—which should be carefully undertaken—a diet of primarily uncooked foods will build up the body’s postinjury regenerative potential. Open-minded scientists could easily test this possibility by experiments similar to those described above.
An early study evaluating cooked foods’ physiological effects is “The Influence of Food Cooking on the Blood Formula of Man,” written by Swiss scientist Dr. Paul Kouchakoff (Proceedings: First International Congress of Microbiology, Paris 1930). In a process called digestive leukocytosis, Kouchakoff notes that after eating, “white corpuscles” increased in the blood, an effect not observed when the diet avoided cooked and “manufactured” foods:
“We find that, after taking raw foodstuffs, neither the number of white corpuscles nor the correlation of their percentage has changed. Ordinary unboiled drinking water, mineral water, salt, different green foodstuffs, cereals, nuts, honey, raw eggs, raw meat, raw fish, fresh milk, sour milk, butter—in other words, food stuffs in the state in which they exist in nature, belong to the group of those which do not call forth infringement in our blood formula.”
In a nutshell, when cooked foods are avoided, the lymphocyte count may move to the fasting levels.
Kouchakoff determined that each food has a critical temperature. When heated above this, the lymphocyte count will double. Again, if the same food is eaten in sufficient quantity at temperature never above its critical temperature (~155–185° F), then the lymphocyte count will return to normal. Foods eaten in mixtures of greater than about 50% containing foods heated past their critical temperature would trigger the lymphocyte-doubling effect.
Some people claim this effect relates to the water within the food. The angle between H2O’s hydrogen and oxygen molecules is supposedly that which the body is actually sensing. Hence, you can have 100% foods not heated past critical temperature and water that has been boiled (e.g., coffee, tea), even if it has been cooled again, and this molecular bond is sensed, resulting in lymphocyte increase.
Although we tend to think of water as a simple molecule, it has much greater physiology-influencing structural and electromagnetic dynamics than most of us appreciate. Through water’s complexity, many healing energies are mediated.
These paradigm-expanding yet simple dietary approaches are supported by intriguing evidence. Fasting may promote healing and regeneration by altering the immune system and shifting the lymphocyte count. This shift may also be triggered by consuming a raw diet, which is easier than fasting.
In many life situations, the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) principle has great wisdom. In our efforts to develop high-tech, complicated SCI solutions through expensive clinical trials, perhaps we have overlooked a KISS dietary approach.
Note: Kouchakoff’s research is posted at http://www.seleneriverpress.com/ media/pdf_docs/37_INFLUENCEOFCOOKING.pdf.
Contact: Laurancejohnston@ msn.com.
Fasting & Regeneration
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